The IT Revolution (cloud computing) pertains not only to business and corporate functions, such as sales. It also affects our institutions and particularly our governments and their digital services. Once again, a strategic perspective is needed to handle IT correctly and make intelligent use of it. Here, too, IT opens up completely new ways of shaping processes and relationships.
This fact becomes all the more important when you consider the current connection between government and IT. When governmental monitoring and surveillance is discussed, so is IT. International crime and the danger of terrorism have turned IT into a monitoring and security issue. Fully transparent citizens without any secrets from the government are more and more the reality. This begs a counter-question. Is the government equally transparent and free of secrets? How crystal clear are government actions? How transparent are its services and how traceable its decisions and regulations?
Consumers Want More
Here, too, the consumer paradigm causes a shift away from previous conditions that is similar to the shift from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. Citizens increasingly view themselves as consumers of government services. They want reasonable value for the money. They want the government to be there for them—not the other way around. ICT is a significant driving force in making the government closer and more responsive to its citizens as consumers of government services. If citizens can use the Internet to organize major products and services they need for life, why shouldn’t the same be true for government services and requirements? Many governments are still in the early stages of development when it comes to e-government.
Greater Efficiency Means Greater Performance
Changes have been substantial not only on the demand side, within the consumer paradigm, but also on the supply side with respect to government services.
Demographic change and the need for solid budgeting policies are forcing governments to resize themselves. They must administer government services more efficiently. For reasons of tactical campaigning, these efforts will be reflected less in the scope of services offered to citizens than in the resizing of the processes needed to render the specific government services (for example, in health care, public safety, etc.). It becomes apparent that IT opens up considerable potential for savings and efficiencies.
Just as IT can be used to shape value chains in new and more efficient ways in the private sector of the economy, it can do the same with processes and procedures in the public sector. Modern budget planning, electronic file handling procedures, central procurement, online forms—IT is to thank for the introduction of all these innovations into the public sector. Much more can still be done. Why not make the government’s use of IT for its services cheaper and therefore more attractive to users? Why aren’t there more electronic forms you fill out in advance (thereby simplifying and spreading their use)? Why isn’t it possible to install a central Citizens’ Help Line where the call center agent can select from optional answers on a screen based on voice recognition software? This service could deal with a whole array of different inquiries from citizens quickly and efficiently.
Government as a Partner
It is technology that is revolutionizing the future of public administration, not government reformers and public managers in the public administration—be they ever so well-meaning. There is a consensus as to what the result of the IT Revolution should be, namely, a leaner, more efficient, less costly, and more effective government, a government that acts not as an overpowering father figure toward its citizens, as is the case in Europe, but rather as a partner. We have a long road ahead of us before we can achieve this type of government. It will involve strategy and planning, and the intelligent use of control tools that have proven effective in the economy. It will require an IT Revolution because we have to reach clarity not only about the benefits of technology and of government institutions, but also about the fundamental goals underlying each. Moreover, greater efficiency and capacity for government to act are just two of many concerns in a today’s complex, globalized world.